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RBR News | December 29, 2016

Posted in Ranch Report

Around the Ranch
Winter is one of my favorite times of the year as a farmer. The cold weather and short days almost force us into a time of reflection, planning and research. This year is no different and the Rock Bottom Ranch agricultural team has spent the better part of December reading books, finalizing 2017 growing plans, and designing new infrastructure to make our work in 2017 even more productive and efficient.  

But the production does not completely stop – we still have pigs, chickens, sheep, and other animals to tend to daily. This year we also made a big push to extend the vegetable harvest season as far into the winter as possible. Even with the recent snow, temperatures below 0ºF, and short day length, it feels and looks like spring in our unheated hoop houses. We have been continuously harvesting carrots, salad mix, kale, and arugula in November and December.  

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing our experiences with winter production. As I’m sure you can imagine, growing vegetables in December and January in the Roaring Fork Valley is not the easiest thing to do. But with the right tools, knowledge and plan, its not that complex either.   

To begin, we must first understand day length. Last year around this time, I wrote about the Persephone Effect and described what happens when our day length, or photoperiod, drops below 10 hours a day between November 17th and January 25th at Rock Bottom Ranch. Even inside of a greenhouse, plant growth slows to a near halt during this time period with so little sun. So, if we want to harvest full-size carrots, they must reach our target harvest size prior to, or right around November 17th. In order to do this, we had to plant our carrots in early August.  We do the same planting with our other winter crops – kale seeded in August and salad and arugula planted in mid-September. In reality, we are not really “winter growing”, but rather “winter harvesting.” Essentially, we are treating the hoophouses like a big winter refrigerator, storing the crops until we are ready to harvest. But since they are still alive and photosynthesizing (albeit at a slower rate than summer) they are still fresh, nutrient dense, and delicious.  

In next week's blog, we’ll look at some of the infrastructure that helps us with our winter harvests. Happy New Year! 

Available Products:

  • Salad mix and winter candy carrots
  • Limited supply lamb cuts including racks, chops, shoulders, legs, stew meat, and more
  • Limited supply of Rock Bottom Ranch / Cap-K Ranch Beef inventory including short ribs, ground beef, and more
  • Full pork inventory including chops, ribs, roasts, and ground pork

Products can be purchased at Ranch during open hours. Please call at least one business day in advance to confirm availability or to place an order for pick-up. 

Salad and carrots can be purchased at Meat & Cheese Farm Shop in Aspen while supplies last. Our friends at the new Free Range Kitchen and Wine Bar in downtown Basalt have several items on their menu including kale, carrots, arugula, and select pork cuts.   

Rock Bottom Ranch is open Monday – Friday 9AM – 5PM with Farm Tours Wednesdays and Fridays at 11AM. For questions about Rock Bottom Ranch please email Jason at jsmith@aspennature.org.

~ Jason Smith, Rock Bottom Ranch Director